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Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK


Campbell denies control freak claim

Mr Campbell says he wrote motions but not this one

One of the Prime Minister's leading officials has revealed that he was writing questions for MPs before he got the job as Tony Blair's press secretary.

Alastair Campbell told the High Court he had drafted Early Day Motions while he was the Daily Mirror's political editor.

But he denied he was responsible for an EDM which led to a defamation action by former Tory MP Rupert Allason.

[ image: Rupert Allason face to face with Alastair Campbell]
Rupert Allason face to face with Alastair Campbell
Mr Allason is involved in a second court battle with The Mirror over an article about the motion which appeared in the Daily Mirror in 1992.

The first found in his favour but did not award damages since the judge said he did not suffer monetary loss.

Mr Allason says subsequently he lost a book contract, and his seat in the Commons.

On Thursday he questioned Mr Campbell about his role in the article.

Mr Allason said the press secretary had a reputation as a "control freak" who would be quick to punish anyone who disobeyed his instructions, but Mr Campbell denied this.

The person Mr Campbell said had written the article - his deputy at the Mirror David Bradshaw - is now working in the Prime Minister's office on Mr Campbell's recommendation.

Mr Allason said this was a surprise since he believed the article resulted in Mr Campbell himself being threatened with the sack.

The former MP asked: "Why did you never call for sanctions against Mr Bradshaw?"

Mr Campbell said: "It was up to the editor to decide."

[ image: Alastair Campbell: threatened with sack according to Mr Allason]
Alastair Campbell: threatened with sack according to Mr Allason
Mr Allason then asked why Mr Campbell, in the circumstances, had recommended David Bradshaw's appointment to the Government's new Strategic Development Unit.

"Are you confident he will not mislead you again?" he asked.

After being warned about the line of questioning by Mr Justice Popplewell, Mr Allason asked whether Mr Bradshaw may have misunderstood an "inappropriate signal" from Mr Campbell over the EDM.

"There were no nods and winks?" asked Mr Allason.

"None whatsoever," Mr Campbell replied.

Mr Allason asked: "Why did David Bradshaw, who has never written an EDM before in his life, suddenly take it upon himself to do so?"

Charles Gray QC, representing the Daily Mirror which is defending an attempt by Mr Allason to win damages over the November 1992 article, asked Mr Campbell whether Mr Bradshaw was in his current position as a reward from Mr Campbell for misconduct.

Mr Campbell denied this.

The hearing continues on Friday.

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